We talk a lot about encouragement and we should.
Because coming alongside and speaking courage to a heart that wants to give up and give in is one of the most beautiful things in the world.
It’s a big part of why I write-my daily prayer is that the words I send into space land just where God wants them to and that somewhere, somehow a heart is made stronger.
But life is full of discouragement.
Sometimes it’s a phone call that brings news of a “no” when you were longing for “yes”.
Sometimes it’s finding out that there is more month than money.
Sometimes it’s a friend that doesn’t remember your birthday or anniversary or some other important date and you’re left with no one to celebrate that milestone.
Sometimes it’s the scale registering PLUS two pounds when you’ve been so, so careful to eat well and exercise all week long.
And sometimes it’s more serious than that-a diagnosis, a pink slip (do they do that anymore?), an argument with your child or spouse or parent.
One of the things I’m learning in this Valley is that I am not immune to the myriad afflictions of life on Planet Earth. I don’t get a pass just because I buried a child. I have to trudge through the muck and mire of the everyday just like anyone else.
And while my heart is much better at sorting the truly important from the barely mentionable, there are still many, many days when I feel sad and discouraged and it has nothing to do with Dominic’s not being here.
This week I’ve battled increased and uncontrollable pain due to my RA. I don’t know any other way to describe it except to say that if it keeps me from going outside and doing things, it’s at least an 8/10 on that stupid scale they use at the doctor’s office.
Some routine blood work showed a couple areas we need to watch. Yippee! More doctors’ appointments and more needle sticks.
I’m resigned to the fact that I cannot change any of this. I’m not morose or without hope, but I will admit my heart is faltering just a bit.
I preach truth to myself. I know that in the end all will be made new and right and I won’t even care about the measly 70 or 80 years I spent down here.
But sometimes I’m just plain tired.
I’m tired of fighting against the barrage of everyday joy suckers.
I confess. I’m discouraged. ❤
This was what I wrote after last February’s retreat.
For an introvert who prefers writing to chatting it was a real stretch.
But it was so worth it!!!
If you are close enough to join us in November, please pray diligently about whether God would have you go. I promise that you will not regret it-even if it’s a stretch for you too.
“I spent last weekend with eleven other bereaved mamas in a small Christian camp in Mississippi*
I’ll be honest-what sounded like a great idea a few months ago had begun to sound like an awful and intimidating idea about three days before I was supposed to go.
Even though I felt more prepared for this event than the Through This Valley Conference in October, I was still filled with trepidation at facilitating five sessions over three days with women I had only “met” online.”
Read the rest here: Heartache, Healing and Hope
Last February I did something I wasn’t sure I was ready for-I spent a weekend with a dozen other bereaved moms at a small Christian retreat.
It was close quarters (a challenge for this introvert!) and we were together 24 hours a day for nearly three days. (You can read about it here)
It was beautiful!
We began by sharing the story of our child-no pressure to make it short, no pressure not to cry, no pressure to tie the ragged ends up in tidy bows for the comfort of those listening.
And then we prayed.
By the time we went to bed that night hearts were already being knit together in love. Many of us have stayed in touch since then and some live close enough to get together often. All of us left stronger than when we got there.
What a gift!
We are doing it again November 2-4 at Abby Acres Christian Camp .
Space is limited (18 as long as 6 don’t mind top bunks 🙂 )and the cost is minimal (75.00 including meals!), so make sure to call Hope Lee at the numbers listed below if you’re interested. [662-256-5652 OR 662-574-8445] The nearest large airport is Memphis, TN which puts you about a two hour drive from the camp.
Our theme for the weekend is “Anchoring Our Hearts in Christ”.
DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS OCTOBER 15TH so call Hope soon! ❤
I’ll once again be facilitating interactive sessions centered around Scripture, filled with personal examples and overflowing with encouragement for battered and bruised hearts.
Please join us!
I promise you won’t regret it. ❤
I don’t wish storms on anyone.
They are frightening, often life-shattering and terrible.
But nearly every heart will be battered by the waves of life eventually.
And if a heart isn’t anchored firmly in the promises and Person of Jesus Christ, there’s no telling where the waves might toss them.
Even anchored, I’m battered and bruised, worn and weary, struggling to endure.
The book of Hebrews can be challenging. It’s full of imagery intended to help early Jewish Christians understand that they no longer needed to cling to the old sacrificial system in addition to believing in Messiah.
But it’s also beautiful-because it weaves a tapestry that helps a heart see how God was working His plan of salvation all the way from Adam through Christ to us.
I love these verses:
16-20 Among men it is customary to swear by something greater than themselves. And if a statement is confirmed by an oath, that is the end of all quibbling. So in this matter, God, wishing to show beyond doubt that his plan was unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath. So that by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world might have a source of strength, and might grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have seen, “High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”.
Hebrews 6:18-20 PHILLIPS
The hope I have in Christ is an “utterly reliable anchor” for my soul!
Let the waves come!
Let the winds blow!
I am assured that nothing and no one can rip me from the ultimate safety of my Savior’s arms!
I do not believe that in offering genuine forgiveness I am required to again submit myself to another person’s hurtful or sinful behavior.
I do believe that forgiveness releases that person from past offenses against me but it does not release them to continue to wound my heart.
And I will stand up any time, anywhere and defend my. right to create healthy boundaries between my heart and someone who has proven, time and again, that they intend to do just that.
What does this look like in real life?
It means that I can call, write or tell someone that I truly forgive them for whatever pain they have caused me in the past. That frees MY heart.
But if that person refuses to change his or her behavior, I am not obligated to allow them close enough to hurt me again.
It is NOT proof of an unforgiving heart to set up healthy boundaries.
It is wisdom.
So I don’t have to invite them to every event. I don’t have to allow them to corner me at gatherings where we both may attend. I don’t have to tell them all the news in my life or include them in my circle of closest comrades.
I can be polite. I will refuse to spread malicious gossip about them and not continue to talk about the old wounds for which I’ve forgiven them.
When my heart tries to resurrect the forgiven offenses, I will remind it that those are no longer relevant. I will not let bitterness overtake me.
There’s a compelling and beautiful anecdote about Corrie Ten Boom and forgiveness:
After WW II, Corrie traveled Europe speaking on the grace of God found even in Ravensbruck, the concentration camp where she was imprisoned and in which her sister died.
After one such talk, a German man came up to her and mentioned that he had been a guard at that camp. Corrie recognized him though he, of course, did not recognize her.
He thanked her for what she shared and put out his hand to shake hers. At that moment, she knew what she SHOULD do, but she did not want to do it. She did not want to touch this man’s hand and offer forgiveness for what many felt was utterly unforgivable.
But God convicted her heart and in obedience she extended her hand. She speaks of how she felt the Lord’s love and forgiveness wash over her and flow through her when she acted in obedience.
She never saw him again.
But for many of us, we continue to see and rub shoulders with the ones who have wounded us.
And if Corrie had again been forced into a concentration camp, she would not have been wrong to go kicking and screaming.
Forgiving that German guard did not excuse what he had done nor did it mean that if he was intent on repeating it that she (or anyone else) had to simply go along.
You do not have to allow another person to use you as a punching bag. You do not have to subject your heart to verbal or emotional abuse. You do not have to prove the sincerity of your forgiveness by enabling continued bad behavior.
That’s neither wise nor helpful.
Boundaries are OK.
They are necessary.
And they do not mean you haven’t forgiven someone.
This Sunday morning I had to extend and ask for forgiveness all within fifteen minutes.
One person said something that unintentionally hurt my heart (he had no idea that what he said plunged a knife in it) and then I overstepped in making an event public before making sure it was definitely on the calendar.
It could have meant I walked away offended and upset.
But I didn’t.
Instead I was honest with the person who upset me about what he said and why it hurt. He apologized immediately and I was quick to accept it. And when I realized I had offended the other person, I asked for her forgiveness and she granted it too.
I find it’s easier for me to do both- ask for and extend forgiveness-this side of child loss for lots of reasons.
First, I’m learning that I just don’t have the energy to maintain an offense.
Offenses are like very fragile hot house plants-they need lots of tending, protection from the elements and so much time. I used to be good at keeping an offense healthy and vibrant. I would feed it often and refuse to subject it to the harsh winds of real life where it could be shown for what it was-not worth the energy or effort!
It’s so much easier to wipe the slate clean and begin again.
Second, I’m learning that since grief wears me down in so many ways, I don’t have the resources to maintain my own mask, keep up my own pretense of always being in a good mood, smiling and having the right words to say. So I make mistakes, step on toes and feelings with a fair degree of regularity and NEED forgiveness often myself.
I can hardly expect others to extend to me what I withhold from them!
Third, I’m learning that the only thing worse than finding out someone I care about is beyond reach is hearing that news knowing I never made things right when it was within my power to do so.
When you’re expecting your healthy, vibrant, youthful son to pop over on Saturday morning but instead get a knock on the door before sunrise, it changes everything.
Sometimes I don’t heed my own advice.
But when I’m paying attention, listening to my heart and really present, I work hard to keep short accounts with those I love and even those I don’t.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
I don’t want to leave this world owing anybody anything except love.
Love is never satisfied because hearts always need more.
And I am glad to pay it.
It’s been a long year.
And an even longer last three months.
I can tell the stress is easing, the burden lifting and the clouds parting. But carrying the load for so long has caught up to me.
And I think I’ve finally reached the end of any reserve energy I may have had.
I try hard to write original material most days and there’s a backlog of over 1000 blog post drafts I can draw from but I just don’t have it in me today.
So here’s another repost of a popular blog from earlier this year:
“It happens in all kinds of ways. One friend just slowly backs off from liking posts on Facebook, waves at a distance from across the sanctuary, stops texting to check up on me.
Another observes complete radio silence as soon as she walks away from the graveside.
Still another hangs in for a few weeks-calls, texts, even invites me to lunch until I can see in her eyes that my lack of “progress” is making her uneasy. Then she, too, falls off the grid.
Why do people do that?
Why is it, when we need them most, many friends-and I mean really, truly FRIENDS–just can’t hang in and hold on?”
Read the rest here: Why Friends Abandon Grievers
A conspiracy of silence forces those who are suffering to hide. It creates huge gaps between what goes on behind closed doors and public image.
And it causes those who are wounded to question the authenticity of their own experience.
I will tell my story because even though it is hard, it matters. And even though it hurts, it can help heal another. And even though it isn’t finished, it can blaze a trail for others to follow.
Read the rest here: Courage is a Heart Word
Since Dominic ran ahead I collect poems, sayings and quotes that help my heart put words to what it feels.
I consider each one a gift.
Over the next few days I will share some of them with you-I hope you find them as beautiful and helpful as I do.
This is a beautiful, traditional Jewish blessing often shared with mourners.
No matter what I’m doing or where I am, I always remember Dominic. ❤
In the rising of the sun and it’s going down, we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and the chill of the Winter, we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of Summer, we remember them.
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.
As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
~Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer